There are strange things done on the network Sun by the men who moil for gold-plated pensions. Were you among the hundreds of Canadians, bored by the doubleheader game on Hockey Night In Canada, who strayed into the upper echelons of cabledom to discover two Canadian dudes fighting – not on skates – on Sun TV? And did you not quickly glance at your watch to make sure we hadn’t ticked over into April Fool’s Day?
The spectacle of MP Justin Trudeau (the Papineau Pugilist) and Senator Patrick Brazeau trading jabs was only too apt in the era of The Hunger Games. Sun Media gadfly Ezra Levant as the verbal cut man, calling uber-Liberal Trudeau thrashing Brazeau for charity, was the clincher.
The bare bones of the plot had Brazeau, a native member of the sober upper chamber, coming out like the Toronto Maple Leafs, gassing himself with a frantic start, only to absorb a thrashing from Trudeau, who (paradoxically) was conservative in marshalling his energy. With Mama Margaret shouting encouragement at ringside, Trudeau won by TKO in the third and final round.
Levant played the role of analyst/agitator like a World Wrestling Entertainment heel. (Think Larry Merchant meets Glenn Beck.) He began by handing the decision to the muscled Brazeau in advance (“This is a one-round fight”), carving Trudeau as the “Shiny Pony” with a phony aboriginal tattoo (a Katimavik symbol for the now-doomed organization started by his father). “Use your ballet training, Shiny Pony,” he mocked.
As Brazeau began his assault, Levant shouted, “Don’t touch the face. We don’t want those lips to be bleeding,” and “I never thought I’d feel sorry for a Liberal but those punches hurt.” Then as Trudeau the Younger rallied, Levant breathlessly bought in. “This is his Liberal bar mitzvah,” gushed Levant. “It was close for about 30 seconds.” When the match was called, Levant lavished the winner with faint praise while Trudeau literally looked down on Levant with a mocking, “This must really eat you up inside, Ezra.”
The greatest revelation, however, was the sight of establishment Ottawa , which normally functions in scold mode, urging children not to fight and nations not to war, getting a faint whiff of blood and liking it. The ancient lessons from the sweet science about resolve and “growing a pair” sent a frisson of primal urge through a press pack usually concerned with more cerebral messages.
Writers who the weekend before were sorting through the leaden speeches at the New Democratic Party convention, revelled in the guilty pleasure of describing Brazeau’s bloody nose and Trudeau’s underdog triumph. Not something we see every day. Nor need to.
Having been a local Toronto sportscaster for a decade, Usual Suspects can empathize with the tedium of the annual autopsy on the Maple Leafs. It’s hard not to take it personally when another wasted winter ends in recrimination. But CFTO sportscaster Lance Brown may be nearing his breaking point.
After another dispiriting Toronto’s shutout loss, a miffed Brown trucked over to the Leafs practice rink to go all Howard Beale on the team for “that crap.” According to his report, the Leafs did not show up at the anointed hour. Their first mistake. “It shouldn't surprise anyone that they didn't show up at the announced time this morning,” hissed Brown. “They didn't show up at all last night, and they haven't shown up for the better part of the last 24 games.”
Inexplicably, the Leafs then suddenly appeared on the practice ice in the four-minute screed, allowing Brown to note sourly that Dion Phaneuf’s practice goal was the first Toronto marker in two games. When the players alighted to the dressing room, Beale, er, Brown grilled them with choice morsels such as “What do you say to people who paid $150 to see that?”
It was all just a little scary as the players warily eyed angry guy with the mike flash and the glassy stare asking Phaneuf, “You personally, have you provided the leadership a captain of this franchise needs at a time like this?”
Maybe Brown doing the “voice of the common fan” had some appeal to show producers at the morning meeting, but his personal outrage bordered on petulant. Frankly, isn’t the cri de coeur of the aggrieved fan what Twitter and blogging are for? What happened to the idea of no jeering in the press box?
Just as Trudeau and Brazeau entered the ring in Ottawa, the final seconds of the NCAA basketball semi-final between Ohio State and Kansas were ticking off in New Orleans. Not that you saw on CBS’s coverage. In the chaos of another late-game lane violation and a flurry of seat cushions by OSU fans, the producers missed Kansas inbounding the final play.
Instead we saw a reply of the Buckeyes messing up the penultimate play. In a tournament that has lacked a Cinderella or even a buzzer-beating shot, it was just another letdown in the production.